Spongebob, Carrot Cake And Setting The Table

Have you ever thought of yourself as a sea sponge?

Before delving into Adam Grant’s “Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things,” my only encounter with a sea sponge involved a cartoon character in square pants. Half a billion years ago, in a time of environmental chaos, many species vanished. Yet, the sea sponge didn’t just survive; it thrived, forming huge underwater forests. These undersea caretakers excelled at both filtering impurities and retaining the good. Their flagella, like tiny hairs, create currents that absorb nutrients and expel (filter) bacteria. I bet you’ve heard people talk about the importance of being a sponge so you can “soak up” all the information around you. Absorbing is only half of embracing your inner sea sponge. 

How well do you learn?

Like a sea sponge,  you need to be able to both absorb AND filter.Your growth is about more than how hard you work. It’s really about how well you learn.
Grant calls this absorptive capacity “the ability to recognize, value, assimilate, and apply new information. It hinges on two essential habits.

  1. How you acquire/absorb information: Do you react to what enters your field of vision, or are you proactive in seeking new knowledge, skills, and perspectives?
  2. What goal do you pursue when filtering information? Do you focus on feeding your ego or fueling your growth?”
I discussed this concept with one of my favorite teams at a recent team training.

If you’re reactive and ego-driven, you limit your access to new information and reject any input that threatens your image. Think, rubber.

Or are you constantly learning new things but filtering it all with your ego? Are you only consuming things that support what you already think? Are you actively seeking feedback from your colleagues and leaders, but if it’s negative, you completely ignore it and think, “They don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t see it from my viewpoint.” Nothing sticks. Think Teflon.

Being reactive and growth-minded is probably better. You’re open to new information but do not actively seek it out. You will only change and develop if someone shows up with the information. Grant says somebody might praise you as “coachable, or even teachable…but the problem is that they don’t seek information beyond what’s easily available. They don’t make much progress until someone picks them up and shapes them.” Think, clay.

I see this happen often in our industry. The doctor organizes morning huddles, weekly team meetings, and quarterly team training, and many team members show up ready to learn. Still, they need to seek new information outside of that setting actively.

The sea sponge is our guide. Proactive in its absorption and growth-minded in its filtering, what could happen in your life this week, this quarter, this year if you started acting more like a sea sponge?

Still trying to figure it out? Listen to these 46 seconds…

A lot of people think being a sponge is absorbing as much information as you can… A huge part of being an effective sponge is not just about what you take in, but what you expel out.

– Adam Grant

Portable carrot cake. Genius.
From the words of one of my favorite bloggers, Browned Buttler Blondie: “I love a good dessert that doubles as breakfast because if I can eat it twice a day, I call that a win.”Get the recipe here.

The best 60-seconds I heard this week.

Ric Elias’ podcast interview with Danny Meyer, the famed NY restauranteur—the guy behind Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, and, believe it or not, Shake Shack.

“We also retired the word values. I cannot hold you accountable for my values. I can hold you accountable for your behaviors. We now call them expected behaviors. We have five of them…Any company in the world can say excellence,  but I wanted to have a way to express that was specifically us. So we took five different of my favorite ideas from Setting The Table, and the action step connected to excellence is:

Center the Salt Shaker

Everyone on our team knows the story behind that and that really advances the culture.Listen to the 37 minute “Lessons In Life” full conversation, here.

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